Sapta Puri

Definition - What does Sapta Puri mean?

Sapta puri are Hinduism's seven holy pilgrimage sites in India. They are the locations where avatars of different deities were thought to have descended in their earthly incarnations. The term comes from the Sanskrit sapta, meaning “seven,” and puri, meaning “city,” “place” or “town.” The faithful believe that if they make a pilgrimage to all sapta puri, they will attain the state of moksha, or liberation from the life-death cycle. Yoga is also a path to moksha.

Sapta is a sacred number and has great significance in Hindu lore and philosophy. In addition to the sapta puri, there are sapta dweepa (great islands), sapta nadi (holy rivers), sapta lokas (holy worlds) and sapta rushi (great sages), among others.

Yogapedia explains Sapta Puri

The sapta puri are:

  • Ayodhya – Also known as Saket, it is believed to be the birthplace of Rama, the seventh avatar of Vishnu. The city is located in Uttar Pradesh along the Sarayu River.
  • Dwarka – Located along the Gomti River in Gujarat, Dwarka gained prominence about 5,000 years ago when Krishna moved the capital of the Yadava kingdom to the city from Mathura. Dwarka was for a long time considered the fabled city of Krishna, then called Dwaraka, until its excavation proved it to be real.
  • Haridwar – The name of this holiest site in Uttarkhand translates as “gateway to Hari,” the primary deity, which is usually Vishnu or Shiva. Located along the Ganges River, Haridwar is where, according to legend, the goddess Ganga came to earth after King Bhagirath prayed to Shiva for help atoning for his ancestors' sins.
  • Mathura – Located in Uttar Pradesh, this city is cited as the birthplace of Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu. The city is also called Braj Bhoomi.
  • Kashi – Located along the Ganges River, this city is known also by the name Varanasi and is considered the spiritual capital of India. It is thought to be one of Shiva's favorite cities, and the faithful believe that those who die there attain moksha.
  • Kanchipuram – This city is located in Tamil Nadu on the Vegavathy River. Known as Kanchi for short, it is revered by Hindus of the Vaishnava and Saiva schools for its temples.
  • Ujjain – Also known as Ujjayini or Avantika, this city is along the Kshipra River in Madhya Pradesh. Shiva is believed to have killed the demons collectively called Tripurasura there.

Two of the sapta puri – Haridwar and Ujjain – host the Kumbh Mela, a mass pilgrimage for ritual bathing in each city's sacred river.

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